Thursday, October 4, 2012

Rama, Rama recited Shekh Sana


Rama Rama paryav Shekh Sanahantay
henzimokha lob tami yar
but polun Koran zoluntay
vantay lo hay lo

~ Poet, Blacksmith Wahab Khar, (b. 1842).

J.L. Kaul in his book 'Kashmiri Lyrics' (1945), translates the lines as:

Shekh Sana recited the name of Rama,
And in an Indian girl he found his Love,
He worshipped an idol and burnt the Koran.
Sing hey ho for joy!
Who was this Shekh Sana? Why is the translation peppered with geography? The book offers no details. Well,  that's not enough for me.

First, this is how I read it:

Rama, Rama
recited Shekh Sana
when
in face of a girl
he found love
He raised an idol
and burnt Koran
O, sing this song!

One would read these lines now and think reference to Koran burning, by a Muslim, is what stands out about these line. But actually what is happening in these lines is really beautiful.

Shekh Sana of these lines is (also) the hero of an Azerbaijanian qissa of Sheikh Sanan,* the man who fell fatally in love with a Georgian-Christian girl, Khumar. In this love story, Khumar's father agrees to give his daughter to Sanan if he agrees to raise pigs and burn Koran. Sanan agrees, and yet the lovers die, pointing out the fallacy of all religions. Now, the beauty. Later, when this tragedy is transported by Wahab Khar to Kashmir, the poet has the hero recite name of Hindu god Rama and raise idols. Still later, when the same Kashmiri lines are later translated in English by a Pandit, the heroine becomes an Indian. Still much later, when I read those Kashmiri lines and translations, I have to spend hours just to get the context.
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Update:
There is a alternative Kashmiri version in Shekh Sana of Mahmud Gami (1750-1855). In this version Shekh has a reawakening of  faith after an intervention by his friends and followers. In the end, the woman breaks her idols and accepts Islam.


The dame in clear submission
Gave up her pride and low passion.
The Sheikh then taught her the lessons of his creed,
And made her the "Kalima" of unity read.

[Tr. by Gulshan Majid, Medieval Indian literature: An Anthology Volume 2, Edited by K. Ayyappa Paniker]

It seems such creative interventions in folklores were not a exception around that time but a trend. In an alternative version of popular Kashmiri folktale of Heemaal Naagiraay put to Kashmiri masanavi form by Wali Ullah Motoo (d 1858), a contemporary of Mahmood Gami, Naagiraay is presented as a Muslim disguised as a Kafir, a Hindu. In this version after Heemaal and Naagiraay burn to ashes, a fakir from Madina restores the two bodies from ashes and then the bodies are buried according to Muslim ritual.

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*Update:
In his biographical piece on life and work of Mahmud Gami, Muzaffar Aazim mentions that Gami's Shekh Sana was based on a plot from a Persian work by Sheikh Attar (145-1146 - c. 1221) titled Manteq-ut-Tair [The conference of the bird, a Sufi allegory in which a pack of birds go looking for the mystical Simurgh]. This is the original source of the love story of Shekh Sana and Khumar. In this work the woman was a sun-worshiper and in Gami's Kashmiri version the girl is a Hindu with a tilak on her face when Shekh Sana first sees her and falls in love.

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